The value of creativity

To Art & Profit was conceived by Abra and I in recognition of an ongoing conversation artists have about why they make their work. In this era of hard economic times, the question of why art matters rears its head for would-be audience and arts supporters, and especially for artists themselves. If I gotta pay bills and eat, that takes precedence over art, right? But what do we lose when we forget that creativity’s output produces not only economic capital? At its highest output, creativity is an investment in human flourishing. It can create space for critique and dialogue. Creativity catalyzes innovation.

We thought about how many times over the years we had talked about art’s role in our communities and the world, about the impact of art/creativity on consciousness, about art as a tool for better forms of human interaction. We discussed how we keep working to find value for all of this in a society that often privileges creative products over creative processes, individual over collaborative genius and art that fits a formula over art that challenges, risks and makes vulnerable.

We mulled over the ways we are driven to do our work. For over a decade, we have been engaged artistically, making works merging cultural politics, ethnography and performance to speak about the human experience and in particular about the experiences of women of color. Why do this work? Who is it for? What does it accomplish?  And more practically, how can one make a living doing this work? How is this work valued in economies of labor? How can the artist create interest – create her own market – for creative work?

We recognized that these kinds of questions and conversations were all around us, being had by artists in their own circles of influence. What would it be like to bring a group of artists across discipline and approach (and who don’t really know each other) together to discuss the value of creativity? Would they find commonality in their concerns and practical issues as they commit to, at least some part, of their lives as artists? Could they be honest and vulnerable about their struggles and their accomplishments? Would they share resources and perhaps, find new tools to add to their creative approaches? To Art & Profit is our creative laboratory to find out.

The festival pulls together a range of formats in which to address our ideas about the value of creativity. Performances, panel dialogues and public spectacle offer different kinds of spaces to engage each other activating the body, activating the voice and hopefully, activating a sense of community among Chicago’s cultural workers.  By offering a forum for artists to bring to light the time and energy it takes to make their work as well as acknowledging the balancing acts required to produce their work, we strive to energize our local artists. We recognize the artist’s ideas about why and how s/he continues a commitment to making creative work. We hope to ignite a conversation that blossoms into other forms of sustained creative expression and community dialogue in our city’s neighborhoods, from sharing resources for spaces and technical support to venturing out into parts of the city we may not usually explore to experience creativity, to getting to know other kinds of creative work outside our individual comfort zones of art practice.

By asking the question “What is the value of creativity?” we open the door to dialogue.  So, interact with us on the blog. Join us for the performances and panels. And, come be a part of the public spectacle every month.  Come show your support and share your thoughts about why and how art matters.




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2 responses to “The value of creativity

  1. This is exciting, Meida.

    A few quick and not completely formulated thoughts: I think we have to figure out more ways to let our audience in to our processes. We take for granted that these creative processes are valuable, as artists, without remembering that there are many people who have very, very little experience with creating, or with having any knowledge of how we create.

    How can we let them experience a bit of the process–and not just by passively watching the process, or by watching the process and then being asked to talk about what they saw, but how can they DO it too?

    Karaoke is huge. Taking a salsa lesson after watching a professional salsa couple dance is popular. YouTube is rampant. We have to somehow acknowledge that just as we enjoy the journey just as much as the result, that taking our audience with us on that journey in a meaningful way might be the key to having them appreciate the product in a way that gives it greater market value. Or that might make the process marketable.

    That’s why I don’t think education and outreach programs should be separate from “professional” programming. You are creating your audience with these programs, letting them experience some of the process, and ensuring that they get–really get–how risky and wonderful the experiment up on stage is.

  2. Siete Lunas Nuevas

    Though I’m in agreement with having the audience participate, I dont assume that “by watching,” the audience is passive. Much of our spirit, soul and body is embraced if and when a “performer” or “performance” appeals to its audience. Many a times after a performance, individuals will come up to me and share what they received from being in the audience. I believe that many times the audiences that I have performed in front of are extremely sophisticated. In a society where all we do is, do, do, do, it’s refreshing when people actually can become engaged at a conscience or spiritual level.

    “Bí a bá fi dídùn họ ifàn, a ó họra dé egun.”
    (Yoruban proverb)

    If you scratch an itch, as long as it feels good, you will scratch to the bone (Even that which feels good should be done in moderation).

    Karoake…not my idea of performance. Individuals imbibe who knows what and then? And as a singer, dancer, poet and actress, it’s these types of “NO PROFIT” performances that allows venues not to compensate its artists. Why bother? When you have a group of people, who 9 times out of 10 dont remember what they did! And guess who has made the profit? The venue owner.
    So, what is our purpose? Is it to provide workshops on the how to’s? Or to meaningfully enage the audience through our conscientious medium of expression?
    ~Simply, my thoughts~
    Peace and blessings!

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